Calendar Girls (2003)

reviewed by
David N. Butterworth

A film review by David N. Butterworth
Copyright 2004 David N. Butterworth
*1/2 (out of ****)

The waiting room sofa at Knapely General is so bloody uncomfortable that,

following the passing of her husband to leukemia, Annie (Julie Walters) wants

to buy a new one and dedicate it to John's loving memory. Fellow members of

Knapely's Women's Institute, a bored group of housewives who sit about listening

to guest speakers lecture about the finer points of broccoli, are in, but how

can they fund this venture, when a nice leather number costs a whoppin' 999!

That's when Annie's best friend Chris, played by a spunky Helen Mirren, has

a brainchild: why not do a nudie calendar, with post-menopausal W.I. members

displaying their comely wares amidst the buns and the jams and the cauli'? (seems

she's influenced by a copy of "Bazookas" she finds under her son's bed). Although

the calendar proves a whopping success, the undertaking puts a strain on the

friend's relationship when Chris becomes more focused on fame than family in

a denouement that warns of the perils of celebrity. "Calendar Girls" is another

one of those cheeky British imports in the "'Full Monty"/"Waking Ned Devine"/"Widow's

Peak"/"Saving Grace" mold that's all quaint British eccentricity and very little

else (like those films, the over-fifties Ritz crowd is going to eat this one

up). There's no Joan Plowright to be seen, oddly enough, and this one's based

on a true event, but there's virtually no story here and "Calendar Girls," even

when it's firing on both cylinders, never rises above inconsequential. At 108

minutes Nigel Cole's film is virtually all padding, and you have to question

scenes in which some male fans claim to be impressed by what the women are doing

when, in fact, what they're doing is raising money for a settee. Somewhere,

somehow, that fact got airbrushed out of the picture. "They dropped everything

for a good cause" would seem to refer more to the filmmakers than the gutsy,

middle-aged women shedding their clothes for a hospital couch.

David N. Butterworth
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